Estero de Magdalena: A Signature Project of RCSM

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LCP Fely Gayya

The continuing saga for the development of Estero de Magdalena is a vivid example of committed cooperation among stakeholders to make a much better place than what it used to. From typical urban blight, populated by illegal settlers, littered with all kinds of household refused and construction debris the place is now a sight to behold. The illegal settlers from Barangay 259 are gone, the easement now a clean pathway with verdant green plants, the black and murky water at the Estero is now green in color.

The Estero de Magdalena is one of the many man-made waterways in the City of Manila aimed to transport excess water to the Pasig River and eventually, to the Manila Bay. It is about a three-meter easement from the estero bank that serves as an alternate pathway for those who reside or work in the area. Overtime, however illegal settlers came in droves and eventually took over the place and lorded in the area.  They became a force to reckon with because they deliver votes to politician protected and babied them. Their arrival, however, cause a bevy of problems, among which where their lack of discipline as they made the estero a dumping ground of their garbage, including human waste. Thus, the water became murky with foul smell and practically clogged and the water beneath the tons of trash hardly flows anymore.  Efforts had been made to clean the area, including threat to relocate the settlers but to no avail.

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Eventually, like-minded individuals and civil societies started to give a hand starting a pilot project of improving the quality of estero and succeeded, thus the start of similar projects. The Estero de Magdalena beautification and rehabilitation project came into being and became a part of the Pasig River rehabilitation program.  The starting point of the program and the Pasig River Coordination and Management office was created to coordinate, plan and synchronize responsive actions on the program.

The PRCMO noted that a bulk of the garbage flown to the Pasig River comes from its estero tributaries so they made it a starting point of the project only to emphasize that the government mean business. The PRCMO deployed estero cleaners which  they called Estero Warriors and they regularly cleaned the Estero. It was easier said than done, however, because of the “throw away” mentality of the people threat (the illegal settlers, the regular residents and even the business sector), the PRCMO persevered and successfully made little progress until the illegal settlers relented to be relocated.

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The PRCMO, recognizing that sustaining  their projects is not one of their strong points due to the multitude tasks they have to attend to, sought the help of civic organizations to lend a hand to sustain the initial victories they made. Thus the Rotary club of San Marcelino came to the rescue.

In answer to the call of RI for the number seven Area of Focus which is the RCSM promised an active community participation and sustainable program designed to restore and sustain the cleanliness of the estero. RCSM formally entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the PRCMO on July 1 formalizing their cooperation entitled “Adopt Estero de Magdalena.”  In the MOU, which is for 3 years both parties detailed their respective roles and obligations.

The stride that had been made in developing the Estero de Magdalena is still a work in progress. There had been a very big improvement but there is so much room for improvement but the insights gained and the lessons learned in this endeavor had been immense and could serve as a template for the similar actions in the future.  There is so much work to be done but the challenge now is how the Rotary Club of San Marcelino articulate their plans if actions to maintain the enthusiasm of the people to sustain further improve the work that had been done.

The Estero de Magdalena cleanup, rehabilitation  and beautification program is just the beginning, but with the “Life Changing” battle cry of the new dispensation a cleaner and greener city is not far from realization.